TONIGHT’S FAYRE – Monday, 19thMay 2014

“Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the sparkling silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.
O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.”

Christina Rossetti – poet – 1830-1894

“My tastes are simple; I am easily satisfied with the best!” Sir Winston Churchill – Prime Minister& Statesman – 1874-1965

If there is a more idyllic or satisfying way of spending a Sunday than watching really enthusiastic 11-year olds playing in a 10/10 cricket tournament in a Utopian surrounding (Stowe School set in about 10k acres of rolling countryside), I’d like to have my cards marked. This event was supplemented with a great picnic, washed down with Pimm’s in plentiful supply and wonderfully ebullient company. It was a rarefied occasion to remember and cherish for ever.

It’s Tonight’s Fayre, as I am tied up tomorrow for much of the day and I have views on M&S!

On 24th November 2009, Marc Bolland replaced Sir Stuart Rose as CEO of Marks & Spencer PLC, the UK’s retail standard bearer. He joined to a great fanfare of trumpets, having been a huge success at Heineken, followed by an impressive sojourn at Wm Morrison. The ‘Good Ship M&S’ was, to all intents and purposes, under a wet sail, with all to play for after the UK economy was on its knees and was struggling to regain some poise. M&S had only grossed £1 billion profit twice – in 1997 and 2007. Since that fateful year profits have been eroding. Today by the time you open this missive – if you ever do – I suspect profits will have dropped for the third year to something like £620 million. Food remains as popular as ever, but general merchandise (clothing and fashion) have been an unmitigated disaster. Most of the senior managers have been replaced. John Dixon, the former head of food, runs the operation on a day to day basis with Kate Swann starting to make her presence felt as fashion guru, replacing Kate Bostock, who should have been removed from office years ago. I am hardly known for my sartorial elegance. Most who know me would describe me as a badly wrapped presence. However I know a well-dressed lady when I see one and these days she is rarely decked out in M&S fashions.

The grape vine tells us that NEXT is likely to eclipse M&S in terms of being No1 UK clothing retailer. The runes in the sand tell us that the winter fashions are looking good! They need to! However I cannot see M&S reclaiming its lost reputation at the expense of Next, H&M, Inditex, and Primark. A merger or takeover by M&S of say Next would make great sense, though I suspect Lord Simon Wolfson will have none of it. Since Bolland took over M&S’S share price is up from 387p to 450p – 16.2% – a very average performance. Investors will be watching to see what has been spent on revamping stores and how margins have been eroded.

I am fearful of M&S’S banking gimmicks and also of having another shot opening stores abroad, where the previous management failed disastrously. They are surely just marketing tools, which just paper over the cracks of its brittle infrastructure. Bolland’s charm has allowed himself to sweet-talk shareholders. God bless their patience! It is just as well I am not an influential shareholder. It would be ‘sayonara!’ BUT maybe the genie will be enticed out of the bottle in the form of a creative fashion god, who will stimulate these dowdy fashions to rise like the Phoenix from the ashes! I won’t be holding my breath.


These are David Buik personal views

Twitter – @truemagic68

David Buik

Market Commentator

D +44 (0)20 7886 2775
Panmure Gordon & Co
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